Wednesday, 26 July 2017 00:51

An overview of Hinduism and Buddhism

Written by 

Today, I got up in the morning thinking about the yogas and wrote a little piece explaining the Hindu concept of yoga. The moment I was done with it and shared it, it occurred to me that for folks to understand what the yogas are they have to have some understanding of Hinduism. But who has the time to try to explain Hinduism and its offshoot, Buddhism? Oh, well, you cannot allow an unfinished business to be left hanging out there. Therefore, I decided to give an overview of Hinduism and Buddhism and do so in less than six pages (what I normally type in two hours).

Unlike the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism did not start as a revealed religion. One person did not sit down and say that here is what God told him and for him to start a religion called Hinduism. Instead, Hinduism grew up in a gradual manner with no known founder.

About four thousand years ago, some Iranians (Aryans) crossed the river Cindy and moved into what is now called India. They met black folks already living there. They called the black folks Dravidians (the black Indians look exactly like Somalis in East Africa and are probably related to them). The Iranians, then called Persians, and the black folks mixed and the result is what we today call Hindus, a people of a mixed white-black race, with the fairer ones ruling the darker ones.

Gradually, sheep shepherds called Rishis sang songs about their God. Over time those songs were written down and became called the Veda.

The Veda is the origin of Hinduism. A song could go like this: I thank you my God; you are one and you created the world; you are one with your creation, the universe.

Veda was written in short verses, usually many in a single page. But reading them you get the idea that they see the universe as created by God, whom they called Brahman, and that Brahman is one with the universe and is the universe.

To Hindus there is one God called Brahman and he is one with the universe.  Brahman is everything. Each human being is Brahman; in his real self he is God not in his present self-awareness. It is said that one God extended his self to infinite selves, each called Atman, and that Brahman and Atman are literally one self.

Whereas you can understand Hinduism by reading the four thousand years old Veda, a different book called the Upanishads was written to specifically delineate what the Veda is really saying. The Upanishads, like the Veda, was not written by one person but are a collection of essays by ancient Hindus thinkers trying to explain what the songs of the Veda is saying.

The Upanishads are about three thousand years, all not written in the same year. What I am writing here could be considered an Upanishad in that it is trying to explain what Hindus believe.

Later on, the poets of India got into the act. A poet called Rama wrote a long heroic poem called Ramayana in which he used allegories and metaphors to explain God and how God created the world and is one with the world he created.

Another poet wrote a book called Mahabharata in which Hinduism is taught through the exploits of a warrior called Ajuna and his spiritual guide called Krishna. God came along as Krishna and taught Ajuna certain things. The Mahabharata essential explains all of Hinduism. A section of it called Begavad Gita is a sort of Bible carried about by most Hindus. The Gita gives you a summary of Hinduism.

So, what is Hinduism? Hinduism is the religion of almost two billion Indians and surrounding people. It teaches that there is one God called Brahman. That one God, as it were, went to sleep and in his sleep seems to divide himself into his already existing infinite parts and the parts are us and everything on earth.

The physical universe is the dream of God. Each of us is a dream figure. What we see as people on earth are not real people but dream persons.

The goal of Hinduism is to awaken the people on earth from their dream of Maya, to get them to recognize that they are no other person than God.

The Yogas are practices to enable people awaken to the fact that they are God. In Raja Yoga, meditation, one ignores ones ego and keeps one's mind blank. In the mind that denies that it is the ego, ahankara, a new awareness may dawn. Some people experience Samadhi and claim that they and all things are one in a formless, bodiless state. That formless state is called Brahmaloca, the abode of God (kind of like Christian heaven...there are many levels of Brahmaloca, including what we might call near heaven, gate of heaven etc.).

Whereas Hinduism is monotheistic, Brahman and Atman, it says that everything we see on earth is a manifestation of God. Therefore, if you want to see anything as God go right ahead and see any specific thing as God. If you do so you are merely playing with yourself. Remember that you are God so you can deny your godhood and say that something else is your god. Who is to stop you from doing so?

The world is the dance of Shiva so go ahead and dance it any which way you want to. Thus, it came to pass that Hinduism has thousands of gods all of which are said to be the manifestation of Brahman. Think of Shiva, Vishnu and Kali and so on. These are gods but they are all aspects of Brahman.

You can say that your right hand is god and Hinduism allows you to do so because all of us are God, so whatever you say about God is your version of the story.

However, there is an intellectual version of Hinduism called Vedanta that teaches Advaita philosophy (idealistic monism); this teaching is the stuff that you read in books about Indian religion. Vedanta says that there is one God; that God extended to Atman, you and I, and that we are all sleeping and need to wake  up to our Godness; we do so with the aid of studies  or meditation (as in the five yogas: Jnana, Bhakta, karma, Tantra, Raja).

Hinduism has many denominations, thousands of them really; some are merely intellectual explication of the religion, Vedanta, as I am doing here, whereas some are for those who like to worship God as a person.

The various Hindu sects worship this or that version of God; folks who worship God in form are called Bhakti people; they constitute over 95% of Indians. The Bhaktis are seen as sort of like children who need god presented to them as a father figure, a god they please and believe that he helps them.

The Jnani says that God is not a person; God is the impersonal force that is the life in all of us. You don't even need to acknowledge that there is God to be living a godly life. Go out there and be a businessman and provide people with goods and services and you are said to be serving God through Karma Yoga, the path to God through social service.

REINCARANATION

Hinduism says that there is reincarnation. We are in a dream and each of us has many dream times in the dream. One keeps dreaming until one wants to wake up and one would set things up for one to start thinking about God, study it and come to know that there is God. But if one does not want to wake up yet that is ones business, after all one is God and there is no reason why one cannot keep on dreaming.

However, one is likely to wake up if one had lived pious lives in past incarnations.

SAMSARA, KARMA

Hindus say that our actions have consequences for us, good or bad. Each action builds for one samsara. The cumulative samsara is called karma. If you do bad things you have negative samsara and you are likely to not wake up soon than if you did good things in past lives. The more bad things you do the denser your mind becomes and it becomes kind of difficult for you to wake up.

THE FOUR CLASSES OF SOCIETY

Hinduism says that society is divided into four classes, Brahmin, Kastriya, Sudra and untouchables. The Brahmin is the priestly class and constitutes those who in past lives lived a positive life and have less samsara. They are at the top of the social totem pole.

The Kastriyas are the soldiers, administrators and politicians, the rulers of this world (they are to consult the Brahmin for guidance for Brahmins are closest to God and have wisdom).

The Sudras are the working classes. The untouchables or outcasts are at the bottom of the social pyramid.

The class you are in is said to be due to your behaviors in past lives. In that sense the outcasts were those who were the most evil persons in past lives, whereas the Brahmins were the good in past lives.

If you pay attention to Hinduism you notice that class is shaped by skin color. Brahmins tend to be like mixed white-black people, lighter in complexion, so are Kastriyas; the Sudras and outcasts tend to be pure black. Therefore, you could be forgiven if you see skin color as used to organize Hindu society and have the lighter skin colored people, Brahmin at the top of the political heap and the darkest people, the oppressed working class, at the bottom.

I do not know whether Hindus were Machiavellian and used race to organize their society but that thought had occurred to me as I mingled with Hindus and saw their social stratification.

To confound me, I am an African yet the Hindus immediately classified me as a Brahmin! So, if color is the criterion for social classification why see an African, although I am brown in color, as a Brahmin? Since it is the Brahmin that can be Hindus priests, Swamis, said that I could become a Hindu priest.

I was told to teach Hinduism and that in my past lives I was a good man and in this life time came to be a teacher of God. Please go ask Hindu swamis how they determine folks social class, do not ask me.

HINDUISM ACCOMDATES ALL RELIGIONS

Hinduism is accommodative of all religions. If you come along they say go ahead and do your thing.

They do not try to stop you from practicing whatever is your religion or tell you to become a Hindu. Hinduism is probably the most peaceful religion there is. They are not like Muslims who want to kill you if you do not practice Islam.

And contrary to what you may have heard about Islam as the fasted spreading religion, it is actually Hinduism and Buddhism that is doing so; college campuses, especially the science departments, have students and professors drown to oriental religions for they are compatible with reason.

VEDANTA, THE THREE GUNAS, KALPA AND YUGA

The intellectual part of Hinduism is probably the origin of extant Western cosmology and Quantum physics.

Hinduism posits that the universe came about in what the West calls Big Bang. One Brahman, in a big bang, exploded and split its oneself into infinite parts. The parts are grouped into three types: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

These three strands, called Gunas, mixed to form human beings and things. If there is more Sattva in you, you tend to be calm and cerebral. In some people there is a predominance of Tamas and they tend to eschew intellectual things. These are the working class of society, mindless folks. People with more Rajas are active; they are the doers, the soldiers, the administrators and rulers of society.

Those with a lot of Sattva are the priests and intellectuals.  If you read Hindu cosmology you would see that the West essentially borrowed from it, just as it borrowed Algebra, via Arabs, from Hinduism.

To Hinduism the universe came into being by the explosion of Brahman and exists for a time and ends.

Each era is called Kalpa or Yuga. Our current era is called the Kali Yuga. Here, most people are Bhaktis and worship God as a person when, in fact, God is not a person; God is an energy that manifests in all of us, but very few persons are capable of accepting that truth.

Hinduism aims at making you give up your ego self and return to the awareness of your true self, Atman, who is one with God.

As Atman you know that you are one with everything and is at peace with everything; you love everything, not as a favor to them but because you are loving your entire self.

I am going to skip esoteric aspects of Hinduism such as the chakras, kundalini energy and so-called ability of Hindu masters, especially avatars, to perform extraordinary feats. I am not interested in the superstitious aspects of religion.

BUDDHISM

Gautama Buddha was born in Northern India 2500 hundred years ago. His father was a king, a maharaja in one of the Indian provinces. He was secluded from the world and given all the creature comforts of this world.

At age twenty-eight he ventured out of his father's luxurious palace and beheld the poverty that Indians live in.  He saw beggars on the streets; he saw dead bodies everywhere. He could not believe that people lived in such penury. How could this be, he asked?

To go find out, he left his palace. He studied with the various Hindi Sadhus: masters, gurus, swamis; he studied the five yogas, the Veda, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata. For six years all the man did was study Hinduism. At some point he got tired of merely reading books and talking to teachers and decided to practice Raja Yoga, meditation, to see if he would experience the oneness that Hinduism teaches?

He sat under a Bo tree. He was there for twenty eight days.  He was tested by Mara (Hindu concept of Satan). Mara promised him this world if he returned to living  in the world as an ego, promised him all the beautiful women in this world, promised him wealth and political power etc. Like Jesus, after him, he told Satan (his ego) to get away from him, he does not want to live in the world if the world is only of the ego and people live to suffer.

NIRVANA, THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTH AND THE EIGHT NOBLE PATHS

Thereafter, Gautama escaped from his separated ego mind and experienced Samadhi, which he called Nirvana. In it there is no you and no you, no I and you, no subject and object, no seer and seen, all are one self, one self with infinite selves in it; all the selves know themselves as one self. In it people are eternal and immortal; they are in perfect peace and joy, bliss.

After experiencing nirvana (heaven and its unified God) Gautama was illuminated to his real self; he is now enlightened to the light that is all of us. He got up from where he sat and began teaching. He obviously taught Hinduism but added the following.

We live in bodies and in the world of space, time and matter, in separated state because we desired to do so; in our truth we are one but we decided to live as separated selves; to live on earth is to desire to do so; nobody brought you here against your will; you came here by your oppositional wish, opposition to unified state, since Christians call the universe God opposition to God. You are opposing unified reality and therefore must suffer. The wages of arrogance is suffering.

To be a human being is to suffer. You stop your suffering when you stop opposing reality and return to the awareness that we are all unified as one self.

You must henceforth see all people as one with you and love them all. This is called the four noble truths taught by Buddha.

He also taught what is called the eight noble paths to the truth: do not harm anyone, do not kill any one, do not steal, do not say bad things about people, do not boast about your phantom wealth, do not feel superior to other people, accept that you and all people are the same and coequal and love them all, have compassion for all people for they are suffering by wishing for separated existence.

Buddha thereafter walked the byways of India teaching his new insights. He built monasteries and became the first religion to build monasteries and his followers were monks. He told them to wear robes that make them look poor and beg for food so as to overcome their egos pride, for proud people do not come to God. One must be humble to come to one's creator.

(Talking about pride, go talk to Igbos and see the most arrogant pricks in the entire universe. Buddhists see them as at the bottom of human evolution, for to be highly evolved is to give up pride and live humble existence.)

THERAVADA AND MAHAYANA BUDDHISM; CHANG AND ZEN BUDDHISM

Buddhism spread all over India and later to China, Japan and all Asia. In China they called it Chang. When it got to Japan they corrupted the word change to Zen.

There are two main branches of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana.  Theravada is strict Buddhism that tries to reach God through meditation. Mahayana postpones having the God experience and tries to live in this world by doing good work, caring for people, sort of like Christianity that emphasizes love and does not teach people to escape from this world even though that was what Jesus taught, leaving this world, now!

One needs to understand that Buddhism is the same as Hinduism; it is Hinduism that emphasizes Raja Yoga, meditation and does away with the many gods and social rituals of India.  It simply tells you to sit down and meditate; in meditation tune out your ego and say to you that whatever your ego tells you is the truth is not the truth; you do not know what is the truth; you do not even know who you are or what anything means; just keep your mind quiet with no ego based thoughts in it. Meditate and if you also love people you would experience nirvana.

DISCUSSION

One of the reasons I found it necessary to write about Oriental religions is that these religions teach Asians to do away with their egos. Asians try but obviously do not quite succeed. But the effort to do away with the ego makes Asians quiet in temperament. Look at them; do you see boisterous and boastful folks? They are quiet and humble. In their humility they are the smartest of the human races!

On Western IQ tests, such as the WAIS, WISC and Stanford Binet, Asians score highest; their average IQ is 115; the average IQ of white folks is 100; the average IQ of black Americans is 85; the average IQ of Africans, you don't even want to go there for they score as if they are mentally retarded (70 is the beginning of mental retardation).

On scholastic aptitude tests, SAT, Asians score highest; out of a total of 1600 points Asians average score is 1250; whites' average score is about 1100; African Americans average score is 850.

Asians high intelligence is reflected in their economic performance; they are taking over the world economy! Africans mental laziness is reflected in the poverty of Africa.

If you used strict scores on the SAT to admit folks to universities very few African Americans would be admitted to America's top one hundred universities. Today if you go to America's top universities such as Caltech, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA and go to the science departments you would think that you are at Asian universities. Asians generally have over 52% of all PhDs given by American universities in the physical sciences and engineering.

I believe that if Africans learn to be less boastful and more thoughtful, embrace aspects of Oriental religions they will begin doing well at schools, and life not as the imbeciles they currently behave as; look at them, they have made a royal mess of their politics and economy and always blame white folks for the shit house Africa is. Instead of blaming white folks, Orientals work hard and are surpassing them in everything!

CONCLUSION

Today, there are about four billion Hindus and Buddhists in the world. Religions that encompass two thirds of the world's population ought to be studied and understood hence I found it necessary to do this little write up.

Most Asians are Hindus, Buddhists or Taoists (Taoism is like Buddhism and Hinduism...read Lao Tzu on the way and learn for yourself).

I hope that this piece helps expand your mind a bit.

Cheers,

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

July 25, 2017

www.centerformindscience.org

Read 760 times
Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176